Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Parents' Coresidence with Adult Children: Can Immigration Explain Racial and Ethnic Variation?

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Parents' Coresidence with Adult Children: Can Immigration Explain Racial and Ethnic Variation?

Article excerpt

There is considerable racial and ethnic variation in the prevalence of intergenerational coresidence in the United States. Using data from the Current Population Surveys, we demonstrate that much of this is attributable to recent immigration and the relative economic position of immigrant parents. Multinomial logistic regression results reveal that recent immigrant parents, particularly Asian and Central and South American immigrant parents, are more likely to live in households in which their adult children provide most of the household income. The likelihood of living in this "dependent" role decreases with duration of residence in the United States. The likelihood of living in an intergenerational household in which the parent provides the majority of the household income is not as tied to nativity.

Key Words: aging, economic support, immigration, intergenerational relations, race/ethnicity.

The population of older adults in the United States has risen dramatically and will continue to rise well into the next century. As our society ages, the racial and ethnic composition of the older generation also will change. The percent of those aged 65 and older who are members of a racial or ethnic minority group is projected to increase from 16% in 1998 to 24% in 2025, and to 34% in 2050 (U.S. Census Bureau, p. 94, Table 3). These changes raise significant questions about the economic and social well-being of older adults from different backgrounds. For example, Black, Hispanic, and Asian elderly tend to be poorer than non-Hispanic Whites, and all are more likely to reside with their children (Burr & Mutchler, 1992; Himes, Hogan, & Eggebeen, 1996); perhaps in part because they derive social and economic support from their children.

One key factor leading to the greater racial and ethnic diversity of the older population is immigration. Although some older immigrants were relatively young when they entered the United States, many are newer arrivals. According to the 1999 March Current Population Survey, roughly 24% of the foreign-born population aged 55 and older arrived in the country when they were 55 or older (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1999). Moreover, a substantial portion of elderly foreign-born individuals (aged 65+) are recent arrivals; 27% arrived after 1980 and about 12% arrived after 1990 (calculated by the authors based on Yax, 2000). If racial and ethnic differences in living arrangements are attributable to immigration (recent immigration, in particular), this would imply that the current diversity of living arrangements is temporary unless immigration continues at high enough levels to fuel it. Furthermore, such a result would imply that the projected changes in racial and ethnic composition would not necessarily be accompanied by society-wide shifts in living arrangements. On the other hand, if the current racial and ethnic differences in living arrangements cut across both immigrant and native groups and can be linked to cultural or socioeconomic differences, we can assume that the living arrangements of the older generation will change as it becomes more ethnically diverse.

Our focus here is on the importance of immigration on the racial and ethnic diversity of the older population in the United States and how this diversity may alter the extent to which extended family resources are drawn upon for meeting social and economic needs. In this article we use primarily descriptive analyses to address three specific questions. First, how much can immigration, particularly recent immigration, help explain racial and ethnic variation in older parents' residence with their adult children? Second, how do parent-adult child households among recent immigrants differ from those of longer resident immigrants or older adults born in the United States? Third, do socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, such as access to public sources of income or age, explain nativity differences in the distribution of resources within households shared by parents and their adult children? …

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